I have been working with horses for over 35 years as a rider, trainer, and instructor.  I have competed through the Advanced level and FEI CIC three star level in eventing. Many horses have shaped my riding and approach to training.  Many students have influenced my teaching and strategies to coaching.  I love horses, and love to see positive change in people because of what horses teach us in our personal life journeys. I have always had a passion for the learning process either in training or teaching

In 2003 I entered the USEA Instructor Certification Program and was certified in the Spring assessment of 2004 as a Level 2 Instructor. From 2001-2008 I started running my business, Landmark Eventing, in Celina, TX teaching and training event horses and riders and then moved to Pilot Point in 2008. In December 2012, I relocated in the same area to a great business fit at Idylwild Farms. I have worked with some remarkable trainers during my career, ridden and audited many clinics with Olympic riders and trainers. I currently work with Mary D’Arcy O’Connell who was the Irish Eventing Team Coach from Atlanta through Athens, 2 WEGs, and several European Championships. She is one of the wisest horse persons with whom I have had the pleasure of working. She has taught me so much and I am forever indebted to her for broadening my understanding of true horsemanship in my teaching, riding, and management.

To truly understand how I got to this point in my life, I need to take you back to the beginning where it all started. My path has been a non-traditional one compared to most other professionals; however, it has given me a broader, richer perspective not only on life but in my training and riding.

I am the youngest of 4 children and grew up as an Army brat, so we traveled around a lot. My dad was 30 years career military having served in Korea and fought in Vietnam, obtaining the Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars, and Purple Heart in combat, and commanded the 2/504 Airborne Infantry Battalion at Fort Bragg, NC. He retired as a full Colonel when I graduated from high school in 1988. When I was in elementary school, we were stationed for 3 years in Heidelberg, Germany where I began my horse craze wanting to see anything relating to horses: carriage horses, police horses, show horses, post cards, posters, and magazines with horses on them. And of course in Europe, horses were everywhere. But my parents wanted to wait until we returned to the States to make the commitment to horseback riding lessons. So instead I became heavily involved in Girl Scouts traveling around to places like London, the Girl Scout Chalet in Switzerland, and at the time East Germany and East Berlin.

In 1981, we settled for 4 years at Fort Dix, NJ when I started middle school. This is where I began my formal riding education at a schooling barn called Flora Lea Farm in Medford, NJ with Kathy Adams, which is still running today www.floraleafarm.com . I had the privilege of riding many school horses in this program. If you jumped ahead, they would put you on a stopper, if you were further along but not properly balanced you would be paired with a more sensitive horse to teach you to be quiet. We were in group lessons and everybody had some problem their horse was addressing. The horses were the best teachers.

We then moved to Fort Bragg, NC where I entered high school in 1985, started pony club, and bought my first horse “Command Performance”, a 4-year old, home-bred, backyard thoroughbred gelding that I took up the levels through Training. It was at times the blind leading the blind but I learned through the help of our passionate pony club instructors, one of whom was Brian Ross who lived at the time in Southern Pines, to be dedicated to the training process and results will come. With the help of the Army Engineers and many pony club parents, the Fort Bragg riding stables built a cross country course to complement the 2 dressage arenas, and show jump arena. Then we started hosting a one day recognized horse trials twice a year which ran from 1988-2003 designed and organized by Brian and Penny Ross who now live in Fairfield, VA and run the Virginia Horse Trials www.vahorsetrials.com. Through Shady Lane Pony Club, I achieved my H-A and competed with my horse on two teams at pony club championships held in Culpepper, VA: 1987 show jumping and 1988 combined training.

In 1988, I was recruited by Shelby French to St. Andrews College in Laurinburg, NC on an equestrian scholarship and rode on the IHSA and ANRC collegiate riding teams competing as a freshman at the ANRC nationals. During the summer after my freshman year, I worked at Camp Seafarer’s YMCA camp for girls taking care of the 22 school horses in the camp riding program.

 

 

 

 

 

It was during my sophomore year that I decided I needed a break and was burned out. We donated my horse to the Moore County local pony club and I packed up all my riding equipment for the remaining years of school and stored it away at home. I started running cross country and competed in two NAIA nationals, got into back country camping, worked in the summers at a retreat center in Montreat, NC as a ranger giving public hikes in the Appalachians and designing wilderness activities for the campers, became a lifeguard, competed in a triathlon, picked up soccer again which I had played through elementary and middle school, lived in Beijing China spring semester of my Junior year with 8 other classmates. I graduated in 1992 cum laude in history and spent the summer hiking around the Colorado Rockies in an outdoor program called Rocky Mountain High where I later worked as a guide assisting with ropes courses, rock climbing, kayaking, white water rafting, and a 5 day trek in the back country. The break was extremely valuable. I learned so much about myself and most importantly that my heart strings still tugged for horses.

 

 

 

 

 

After graduation I started working at Landmark Farm in Southern Pines, NC taking care of Mr. Firestone’s (Bridgestone Tires) private barn and representing the farm in the Moore County Hunt. It was an incredible experience. There were 3 of us working the place, riding on the Walthour Moss Foundation trails www.walthour-moss.org, in the heart of the sport horse industry. It was during this time that I met and later married my best friend John Roper in 1994. He was a West Point graduate and an Army Lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division serving in the same battalion my father commanded back in 1973. So, it was as close to an arranged marriage my parents could have hoped for!

After we got married, I rode and competed some horses for people at the Fort Bragg Riding Stables while pursuing a masters degree in education at Campbell University certifying me to teach in the public schools K-6; what was I thinking! I taught 6th grade math/science my first year in a Title 1 school. John got out of the Army and we moved to Chapel Hill, NC for his MBA program and there I taught 7th grade math. We spent a summer interning in Plano, TX where John worked in marketing at Frito-Lay. I brought my saddle with me “just in case” and ended up coming home with a 3-year old thoroughbred gelding, paying for him in cash, off a race horse farm in Justin. I named him “Stocking Stuffer” and brought him up the levels through Training.

 

After John graduated from business school, he accepted a marketing job with Frito-Lay and we moved to Texas in 1999. I began working for a local dressage trainer full time and started pouring my heart and soul back into my passion. I started learning the trades of the industry, the life of a trainer, sales protocol, problem solving from a dressage perspective, industry politics, etc. It was during this time that I bought my first upper level horse “Pass the Bar” from Amy Bock who was training with Peggy Friauf www.texaspfflyers.com. I continued working with Peggy and competed “Fletch” through the Intermediate level and in 2001 placed 5th out of a field of 41 at the Camino Real CCI* long format three day. In 2000 we were 3rd place Area 5 Preliminary Horse, 2nd place Area 5 Preliminary Rider, Area 5 High Point Preliminary Quarter Horse, NTEA SR Preliminary Reserve Champions, 2nd place team at the Chronicle of the Horse Preliminary Central Division Adult Team Championships, and 20th nation-wide USCTA Preliminary Horse. In 2001 we won the Area 5 Preliminary Championships, 4th place Area 5 Preliminary Horse and Rider, 3rd place NTEA SR Preliminary, and Area 5 Reserve Champion Intermediate Quarter Horse and in 2002 High Point Intermediate Quarter Horse.


 

“Fletcher” was a gem in the dressage but was not the boldest jumper and I retired him at the Intermediate level in 2002. I then began riding a quirky red chestnut thoroughbred gelding “Daily Double” for Wistie Oppenlander and started him from trot poles through Training level in less than a year. He was sold to Diana Brown through Mike Huber as “One to One” and she competed him through the Advanced level. He was very green and spooky but I loved the challenge and my heart for the upper levels was reignited.

 

 

In 2004 I began the search for my own talented young prospect to bring up the levels to Advanced. After 4 months of building a network on the east coast and taking several trips trying out horses, I got a call from Sharon White www.lastfrontierfarm.com, she shared with me about a horse that just came into the barn to be sold: “He’s not much to look at right now but you have to sit on him, he is going to be a big time horse”. And so it was, “Jireh” aka “Sisco” a 4-year old, off the track, Maryland bred thoroughbred gelding that had 8 starts but was not going to have a career as a race horse. He had been started over fences showing incredible self confidence and a laid back swagger. He was a big gangly youngster with little natural topline. But he had these amazing honest bold eyes which I fell in love with. He knew what work was from the track, and was extremely willing to please. In addition to having plenty of scope, Sisco had the temperament I longed for. Check out the “Sisco Chronicles” on the website for updates on our latest outings and pictures from the past.

 

 

During Sisco’s career, in 2006, we adopted a baby boy Joshua Lee who has forced me to live a more balanced life. He is full of life, energy, and “Wiggles” music! With help from many sources, I’ve been able to continue running my business and competing at the upper levels. It has been quite a juggling act at times and learning the art of parental multi tasking! I definitely see things from a different perspective now, an enhanced perspective!

 

And so here I am in Texas running a full time training business having realized that horses are a life long pursuit and the passion never quite leaves you once you’re gripped. I am forever grateful to my patient husband who has kept me encouraged during the ups and downs, my mom who shuttled me back and forth to lessons and the barn and was always there to support the cause, and to my loyal client base which has become a second family. I hold true to my Christian faith which influences my decisions and business interactions. I know I’m far from perfect and need all the help I can get! I hope to give back to the horses and riders just as much as others in the past helped me so we can all enjoy the journey whether for pleasure or sport.

 

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